Pragmatic Competence Development in Virtual Environments in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Higher Education in Palestine

Pragmatic Competence Development in Virtual Environments in Light of the COVID-19 Pandemic in Higher Education in Palestine

DOI: 10.4018/978-1-6684-3595-3.ch003
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This chapter presents a study that investigated the perceptions of English as a foreign language (EFL) learners' pragmatic competence development in virtual environments in higher education in Palestine for the academic year 2020- 2021 in light of COVID-19 pandemic. For this purpose, a mixed-methods approach was employed using a questionnaire, role-play, and semi-structured interview. Seventy-five undergraduate EFL learners from four universities participated in this study. Results of the quantitative phase revealed positive perceptions of EFL learners towards pragmatic competence development in virtual environments, with the majority of responses falling under the categories of agree or strongly agree. Responses to the role-play activity demonstrated that there were differences in the pragmatic aspects EFL learners employed in favor of females, particularly in the richness of linguistic resources and level of politeness. EFL learners acknowledged the importance of pragmatic competence as a means to successful communication and emphasized its teachability in formal instruction.
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Since Bachman’s (1990) recognition of pragmatic competence as a significant component of communicative competence in the field of foreign language education, its development in the instructional context has been gaining more attraction among researchers (Alqurashi, 2019; Al-Sha'r, 2017; Kasper, 1992; Koran & Koran, 2017; Krisnawati, 2011; Muhammad & Nair, 2017; Phaisarnsitthikarn, 2020; Saito-Stehberger, 2009; Wijayanto, 2019). Recently, along with the breakthrough in technology, research has shifted its orientation to investigate pragmatic competence development in technology-mediated contexts (García-Gómez, 2020; Gonzalez-Lloret, 2019; Haghighi et al., 2019; Kaliska, 2018; Taguchi, 2020). This is because when foreign language pragmatic information is insufficient, learners develop their own pragmatic interlanguage, transferring knowledge from the first language or from universal knowledge to their linguistic performance in a foreign language, which may cause a pragmatic failure of a communication act (Kasper, 1992). Research suggests that learners who receive explicit pragmatic instruction outperform those who are only exposed to linguistic input without such information (Bardovi-Harlig, 2001).

Key Terms in this Chapter

Speech Acts: The expressions or utterances performed by EFL learners in oral communication such as apology, refusal, thanking, etc.

Thematic Development: The ability to develop a clear description by expanding and reinforcing primary themes with pertinent information and examples.

Formal Instruction: Teaching that follows certain professional curricula and is accredited by official educational bodies.

English as a Foreign Language: The term used to describe the study of English in Palestine. English is only taught in educational institutions.

Impoliteness: A negative behavior towards a specific situation occurring in virtual contexts.

Pragmatic Aspects: The language functions and resources utilized by EFL learners while communicating in English online.

Pragmatic Flexibility: The ability to adopt an appropriate level of formality, vary information or adjust to changes in directions, style, and emphasis in communication.

Interlanguage: The type of language utilized by foreign-language students learning English in virtual environments including the influence of their first language (i.e., Arabic).

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